Pinoys' distrust of China reflects seriousness of WPS tensions, PN says

(FILES) Philippine Coast Guard crew members aboard the BRP Cabra monitor a Chinese vessel anchored at Sabina Shoal, a West Philippine Sea outcrop located about 135 kilometers west of Palawan. China’s ‘aggressive’ actions in the WPS have earned condemnation from the Philippines and such countries as the United States, Japan, and Australia.
(FILES) Philippine Coast Guard crew members aboard the BRP Cabra monitor a Chinese vessel anchored at Sabina Shoal, a West Philippine Sea outcrop located about 135 kilometers west of Palawan. China’s ‘aggressive’ actions in the WPS have earned condemnation from the Philippines and such countries as the United States, Japan, and Australia. (Handout/Philippine Coastguard/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)

Filipinos' growing distrust of China is a sign they finally grasp the seriousness of the situation in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Philippine Navy Spokesperson Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said on Sunday.

Trinidad made the remarks in a radio interview after the latest Tugon ng Masa survey showed that that 91 percent of adult Filipinos distrusted China and that 76 percent of the survey respondents named Beijing as the biggest threat to Manila.

“Finally, our countrymen already understand the existential threat that (China) poses in our existence as a republic," Trinidad said.

Trinidad acknowledged the presence of some Filipinos who remain critical of the government's handling of the WPS conflict, but emphasized the importance of national interest.

“When national interest is at stake, it should be a no-brainer. National interest should be above all. The Navy is very happy that our fellow Filipinos understand the issue right now,” Trinidad added.

In the radio interview, Trinidad reiterated the Navy's commitment to maintaining the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era tank landing ship grounded on Ayungin Shoal in the WPS.

“This is a commissioned vessel of the Philippine Navy," he said in Filipino. "It is our mandate to maintain it. We cannot simply abandon it to deteriorate or collapse,” he added.

The BRP Sierra Madre has been stationed at Ayungin Shoal since 1999, manned by a crew of about a dozen marines and sailors. It has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

China, however, has called for the removal of the BRP Sierra Madre, referring to the area as Ren’ai Jiao.

Last Tuesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released a video showing Chinese individuals in small boats taking supplies that had been airdropped to Filipino troops stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre. The AFP also reported that the Chinese conducted "dangerous" maneuvers, coming "very close" to Filipino personnel.

On Friday, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, Commodore Jay Tarriela, reported that China Coast Guard vessels deliberately rammed a Philippine Navy rigid hull inflatable boat. This occurred despite the Chinese side being informed about the humanitarian nature of the mission.

The mission aimed to evacuate a sick military member stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, who required immediate medical attention.

“They were given the proper medication and were advised to rest. Their condition is not serious,” Trinidad said

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